Lakhs of devotees participated in the annual Rath Yatra festival of Lord Jagannath held on Thursday amidst tight security in the temple town of Puri.
The festival was held just a month after Cyclone Fani barrelled through the temple town, where it wrecked large-scale devastation and claimed 64 lives in Odisha.
The servitors carried the idols of Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Sudarshan out of the 12th-century shrine in a ceremonial procession.
The idols were brought down from the 'Ratna Sinhasana', taken down 22 steps known as 'Baisi Pahacha' and through Lion's Gate in an elaborate ritual called 'Pahandi'.
Lord Jagannath was seated on his 45-feet high chariot 'Nandighosh', Lord Balabhadra on 44-feet high 'Taladwaja' and Devi Subhadra on 43-feet high 'Darpadalan', along with Lord Sudarshan.
Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, along with his disciples, paid obeisance to the idols on their respective chariots.
Gajapati Maharaj of Puri Divyasingha Deb arrived in his royal palanquin and carried out the 'Chhera Panhara' ritual, the ceremonial sweeping of the chariots with a golden broom, amid chanting of 'shlokas' by the priests.
As the rituals were completed before time, the devotees, who flocked from across the country and abroad, pulled the three chariots to Gundicha Temple, about three kilometers from Shri Jagannath Temple amid the sounds of 'ghantas', 'kahalis' (traditional instruments) resonating in the air and blowing of conch shells.
They reached their destination in the evening, said Shree Jagannath Temple's chief administrator P K Mohanpatra.
The rituals had begun on Wednesday with the performance of 'Naba Jaubana Darshan' of the deities after they remained confined in 'Anasara Pindi' (recovery chamber) following the grand bath on 'Snana Purnima'.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, other ministers, MLAs and many other dignitaries were present in Puri to witness the grand festival.
Director General of Police R P Sharma said the pulling of the chariot by the devotees was completed smoothly without any untoward incident.
A total 10,000 security personnel were deployed to ensure peaceful conduct the festival, he said.
Some units of Rapid Action Force, Odisha Swift Action Force and Anti-Terrorist Squad were also deployed, said IG, Central Range, Soumendra Priyadarshi.
A multi-layer security net had been thrown to ensure smooth conduct of the festival while a large number of CCTVs were installed at various locations and an integrated surveillance control room set up near the Jagannath Temple as a special step.
The Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard kept a close eye on the sea route, officials said.
East Coast Railway operated special trains to clear the rush of devotees.
Patnaik greeted people on the occasion and sought the blessings of the deities for the happiness and prosperity of people.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted people on the occasion.
'Greetings and good wishes to fellow citizens on the auspicious occasion of Rath Yatra. May the blessings of Lord Jagannath bring peace, happiness and prosperity to everyone's lives,' the president said in a tweet.
'Best wishes to everyone on the special occasion of the Rath Yatra. We pray to Lord Jagannath and seek his blessings for the good health, happiness and prosperity of everyone. Jai Jagannath,' Modi tweeted.
Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Pratap Chandra Sarangi, both of whom are from Odisha, also greeted people on the occasion.